Film Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

The latest entry in the whole Star Wars thing comes less than six months after The Last Jedi and is intended as a stand-alone tale that tells you all about Han Solo as a young man. While there’s a slightly soulless, checklist-ticking aspect here, star Alden Ehrenreich mostly keeps you watching as he almost out-Harrison-Fords Harrison Ford.

The production had a troubled history, with original co-directors and comedy specialists Phil Lord and Christopher Miller controversially fired from the top job (after reports of too much budget-wasting and kooky improvisation, although they remain credited as executive producers) and director Ron Howard brought in at the last minute to get it back on track. It’s said that Howard’s work comprises 80% of the film and Lord/Miller’s 20%, and you can sometimes spot a choppily-edited bit or pick a moment where a wilder joke might have fitted before Ron turned up to make it more like — yawn — a traditional Star Wars movie.

Kicking off without John Williams’ legendary Star Wars theme (no one’s ever going to get used to that), this has Alden’s young Han stuck on a mining planet called Corellia where everyone’s exploited by the feared Lady Proxima, a sort of giant reptilian-millipede with lots of interstellar jewelry and the voice of Linda Hunt. Han’s in trouble right from the word go and on the run with his beloved gal-pal Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), and after an elaborate but obvious bunch of plot twists winds up enlisted in the military and, three years later, in some FX battle or other and meeting the smugglers and ne’er-do-wells Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and Val (Thandie Newton, now a sci-fi devotee after TV’s Westworld).

Han also meets beloved Wookiee Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo under the suit) in a fairly surprising sequence where it’s revealed, oh-so-conveniently, that Han speaks a pidgin form of the profanity-filled whining-and-growling language Shyriiwook. Wow, how lucky is that?

An overly bouncy plot also features the later-referenced and rather explosive ‘Kessel Run’ (in less than 12 parsecs, of course), an appearance by nasty ‘Crimson Dawn’ main-man Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) and, of course, the grand unveiling of the future traitor Lando Calrissian. As played by Donald Glover (a.k.a. ‘Childish Gambino’), this showboating trickster is shonky from the get-go, and it’s heavily hinted that he’s pansexual as well, therefore very happy to get intimate with anyone or anything.

With a script by the original trilogy’s Lawrence Kasda  and his son Jonathan, no input by the dreaded George Lucas, too much FX, some actual acting, an improbable double/triple/quadruple-cross plot line, lots of shout-outs to fans, a visual reference to Raiders Of The Lost Ark and a dig at Lord and Miller (Harrelson’s Tobias wants a heist carried out with “no improvisation”), this isn’t The Force Awakens but proves about on par with the dreary Rogue One.

There’s also a suggestion that almost any character in the Star Wars Universe/Mythos can now have an ‘Origins’ movie devoted to them in between episodes of the ongoing series proper. Just think of it: what was Chewbacca like as a tearaway teen Wookiee? How about a portrait of C-3PO as a young droid? Or a hard-hitting study of Jabba the Hutt’s descent into criminality, and possibly the huge, drooling alien slug-thing that broke his heart?

Rated M. Solo: A Star Wars Story is in cinemas now.

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